On June 19th of this year there was a significant hailstorm in my neighborhood that damaged dozens of roofs and automobiles. My Allstate agent texted me on the same day – impressive – and asked me whether or not we had been affected by the storm.
One thing led to another and within a matter of weeks a roofing contractor and an Allstate field rep met at my home to examine the roof. Working with an Allstate claims adjuster in Chicago remotely using a tablet that displayed images of the damage done to my roof, gutters, and screens, it was determined that a roof replacement was warranted.
The following Saturday, I received a phone call from the Chicago-based adjuster who reviewed the claim and coverage. It was during this call that I learned of a certain policy endorsement that applied to my claim that increased my portion of the repair cost. For the uninitiated, a policy endorsement refers to an amendment or addition to an existing insurance contract that changes the scope of the original policy. An insurance endorsement may be used to add, delete, exclude, or otherwise alter coverage. In my case, there were exclusions that required me to pay $8,500 above and beyond my $2,000 deductible.
Apparently, five or six years ago Allstate amended its home insurance policies in certain parts of the country with an endorsement intended to reduce its financial exposure to roof repair claims due to wind and hail damage. The endorsement effectively substituted actual cash value (ACV) in place of replacement cost value (RCV). The difference is significant. With ACV, the insurer pays to repair or replace your roof, less your deductible and depreciation for the age and type of roof. But with RCV, the insurer pays all costs to repair your roof, less your deductible, without factoring in depreciation.
Although I have been unable to locate it, I’m certain that Allstate mailed me a policy renewal document detailing my increased exposure due to the endorsement. I may have even skimmed the document before filing it away without spotting the change in coverage. I’m really not sure. What I am sure of is this: I was unaware that my coverage had changed from RCV to ACV until my phone call with the Allstate adjuster following the June hailstorm.
Rather than feeling informed, I felt duped. There are a lot of feelings that Allstate would hope to inspire in their customers and I’m pretty sure “duped” isn’t one of them.
After I hung up with the adjuster, I immediately texted my agent to convey my displeasure with Allstate’s settlement offer. After more than a week passed without hearing back, I emailed my Allstate agent requesting to appeal the settlement offer and asked for next steps. That message was also ignored for weeks. During this timeframe, I also tweeted both @Allstate and @AllstateCares. On one occasion, @Allstate conveyed that they would escalate my claim. After not hearing back for three weeks, I again took to Twitter and this time heard back from @AllstateCares who said that my claim would be re-escalated.
Finally, five weeks after my initial contact on Twitter, I received a phone call from an Allstate representative named Jeremy. While courteous and professional, after our call I was left with the distinct impression that “it is what it is.” As for my local agent, the first time we connected after my original text on July 21st was on September 19th when I called to fire him.
Rather than feeling important, I felt ignored. There are a lot of feelings that Allstate would hope to inspire in their customers and I’m pretty sure “ignored” isn’t one of them.
There is a science, known as Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), to determining the future spending a company can expect from its current customers. Roughly defined, CLV is the projected revenue that an average customer will generate during his lifetime. This is calculated using averaged variables such as sales per customer, purchase frequency, customer retention rate, profit margin, and time.
During the 18 years I was an Allstate customer, I estimate that I paid more than $100,000 in premiums for home, auto, and umbrella policies. And there’s no reason I would not have continued with Allstate for another 18 years or more. But in its pursuit of bad profits – a term coined by Fred Reichheld for profits earned at the expense of customer relationships – Allstate was willing to forfeit good profits on >$8,453.68 EVERY YEAR (which does not include insurance on a new vehicle that was insured with Country Financial the day after I cancelled my Allstate policies) in order to recover $8,510.47 in bad profits ONCE.
On the topic of bad profits, Reichheld expounds: “Bad profits choke a company’s growth by creating detractors whose dissatisfaction blackens its reputation. They demoralize employees and leave the company vulnerable to the competition (like, say, Country Financial). They make a mockery of the Golden Rule—that we should treat our neighbors the way we would like to be treated.” And he asks, “Why don’t more (companies) understand that filling their budget gaps with bad profits is simply turning their customers against them—and destroying their ability to attract and retain good employees, who want to be proud of how they treat customers?”
Rather than feeling prized, I felt devalued. There are a lot of feelings that Allstate would hope to inspire in their customers and I’m pretty sure “devalued” isn’t one of them.
LESSONS FROM LOSSES
Communicate important changes clearly and creatively. If there are changes that impact your customer, especially adversely, go out of your way to clearly communicate these changes and reset customer expectations. Mailing a form letter is one communication method but may not be sufficient for all situations. In the case of a change to the original terms of an insurance contract that will increase a customer’s financial exposure in the event of a claim, I would send a single-page explanation using colorful, easy-to-understand graphs that clearly demonstrate the increased exposure.
Of course, the contact information for the customer’s local agent would be included for additional information and to answer questions. This is also an opportunity for the local agent to reconnect with existing customers by proactively organizing informal meetings at an area coffee shop to discuss the change and respond to questions. The agent could also reach out by phone or email to ensure the change was communicated and, again, respond to questions or concerns. While educating customers, the agent is developing trust, relationships, loyalty, and even referral sources.
Rather than slipping contract changes past customers during policy renewals, why not go out of your way to draw attention to them? This may even provide an opportunity to increase sales by selling insurance riders (to mitigate the added risk resulting from the contract change or extend coverage for items such as jewelry or firearms) or other insurance products, such as umbrella policies.
Be responsive to customers. Respond to customer phone calls, texts, emails, and tweets in a timely manner. This is Customer Service 101 and, basically, just common sense.
Convey to customers that you prize their loyalty. It is well documented that the most effective ways to boost a customer’s lifetime value are to increase his overall satisfaction and intent to repurchase. Bain & Company research reveals that a 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent. The same study found that it costs six to seven times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one – which is why it is so befuddling to me that Allstate would appear indifferent toward actions that made me feel duped, ignored, and devalued.
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